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Rare snowfall in Los Angeles County, Las Vegas had 5th February snow day, first since 1949


A winter storm named Quiana by The Weather Channel dumped heavy snowfall on parts of the Southwest and brought rare wintry precipitation to parts of Los Angeles County. Snow fell on Las Vegas for the 5th time this month on February 21 – this was the first time since 1949 that Las Vegas saw 5 days of snow in February. The cold system is now shifting from the Southwest to the southern Rockies, creating blizzard conditions and causing travel problems over the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. This vigorous storm will impact the Eastern two-thirds of the country this weekend. 

Thunderstorms, snow, hail, sleet, and graupel were all in the mix across Southern California, NWS said.

While the storm caused big problems in northern Arizona, in Greater Los Angeles area the precipitation on February 21 was spotty but the snow did fall at elevations as low as 300 m (1 000 feet), according to NWS meteorologist Kristen Stewart.

In most cases the NWS was unable to confirm actual snow fell, Stewart said, adding it was likely hail or graupel. 

Snowfall was confirmed in Satna Monica Mountains above Malibu, less than 8 km (5 miles) from the beach, and nearby communities such as Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks and Calabasas. In most cases, however, it lasted just a few minutes.

Snow, or something like it, was even spotted in lower lying areas like Beverly Grove and Pasadena, according to the Curbed.

NWS meteorologist Keily Delerme said the agency has received anecdotal reports, but no official confirmation, of snowfall in the Pasadena area.

The last time it snowed in downtown Los Angeles was in January 1962, according to Los Angeles Public Library archives. During that storm, heavy snow fell in the mountains and high deserts and dusted parts of downtown and West Los Angeles. Most of the city snow, however, melted quickly, the Los Angeles Times reminded. Snow has dusted portions of Los Angeles County over the years, most recently in 2007, it said.

"This is probably the coldest storm system I've seen in my time in California," NWS meteorologist David Sweet told the LA Times. "We've had cold mornings and freeze conditions, but I don't remember seeing anything quite this cold."

An unusually chilly storm system that originated in Alberta, Canada, was lingering over Nevada and had already blanketed Las Vegas with snow early Thursday, February 21, LA Times reports. Before daybreak, snow was falling in parts of the Southland, dusting Palmdale and the Lucerne Valley.

More than 15 cm (6 inches) of snow fell in some Las Vegas suburbs, according to the TWC.

At McCarran International Airport, measurable snow was reported for the first time since December 2008. By the time the snow stopped falling, the airport officially reported 2 cm (0.8 inches) of accumulations.

Thursday, February 21 was the 5th snow day in Las Vegas this month, the first time there have been that many snow days in any February since 1949, according to the NWS.

The Clark County School District canceled all school and after-school activities planned for February 22 due to reports of potential freezing conditions on the roads that would be unsafe for school buses during the morning commute.

By early Thursday, afternoon, it was snowing across Southern California and winter weather had forced the closure of the Interstate 5 at Grapevine, a high pass along the key route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

An upper-level trough is forecast to move eastward through the Four Corners region on Friday and into the Plains on Saturday, February 23, NWS forecaster Tate noted 07:58 UTC (02:58 EST), February 22.

At the surface, a low pressure system will slowly move across the Southwest on Friday and Friday night, then rapidly through the Plains and Middle Mississippi Valley on Saturday while strengthening.

The cold temperatures and the lift (rising motion of the air) in association with these features will create more winter weather.

Additional snow of 15 – 25 cm (6 to 10 inches) is forecast for higher elevations of the Mogollon Rim and the Southern and Central Rockies on Friday. 

As the low tracks east and then northeast, winter weather will spread to the Northern/Central Plains on Friday and into the Upper Midwest by Friday night.

A swath of 15 – 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) of snow is forecast for the Central Plains, with higher totals of 20 – 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) in the Middle/Upper Mississippi Valley through Sunday morning, February 24.

Additionally, freezing rain is expected to accumulate in these areas, with over a tenth of an inch of ice currently forecast for parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, and northern Michigan. Hazardous travel conditions are likely.

By Sunday morning, the deep low pressure system will bring strong winds and heavy snow to the Upper Great Lakes region.

Featured image credit: Winter scenery just outside of Las Vegas, NV at Red Rock Canyon State Park. Credit: Aaron Ruppert via Reed Timmer/AccuWeather

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